City Hub

Bouncers a law unto themselves

It has become a hallmark of Sydney: burly, uneducated, ego-driven security guards outside licensed premises, making prejudiced decisions regarding entry and often being violent and over-aggressive towards patrons.

A largely ignored fact is that ‘bouncers’ have no legislative power to use force. Although crowd controllers hold batons and clench fists, they’re as entitled to use them as anyone else. A threat of violence is a threat of assault.

But a problem remains: regulation is entirely with NSW Police. The state’s 38,000 licensed security personnel constitute a second-tier police force that enjoys a tolerant attitude from law enforcers. The majority of court cases against them are civil, as criminal charges are seldom laid.

In NSW the licensing of security guards is to “the satisfaction of the Commissioner”; Andrew Scipione maintains discretionary power. Recent legislation bans the mentally and physically unfit (deemed by Scipione) – and, of course, bikies and terrorists.

NSW has been waiting two years since the introduction of the Security Industry Regulation (Patron Protection) Bill by former Nile-sidekick Gordon Moyes. The law, which allows random drug and alcohol testing of bouncers, has been passed by the upper house and will go before the lower house next year.

A NSW Police spokesperson wouldn’t say how many ‘bouncer’ licences they have revoked, but industry insiders say cases are isolated. Changes made since 2007 has seen a drop in the calibre of personnel, according to a security company CEO. Two-day courses have evolved to 10-day – this has attracted full time, often unskilled workers, rather than the educated and casual employees the industry demands.

NSW is presided over by the western world’s fourth largest police force and an ever-growing, sub-standard array of security guards – many who break the law by assaulting patrons. And it’s getting worse.